“Jane the Virgin” not only got pregnant without having sex, she did something equally groundbreaking: The character has helped to represent Hispanics and inspire a generation of girls and young women.
In the run-up to the premiere back in 2014, there was a lot of talk about how “Jane the Virgin” would be a pioneer. There had never been a successful, hourlong show focused on Hispanic actors and characters on an English-language, American broadcast network.
Star Gina Rodriguez was certainly aware of that. She said she became an actor because “I never saw myself on screen,” adding that she hoped that girls would see her on “Jane the Virgin” and say, “Well, Gina’s like me, Maybe not necessarily the same skin color, maybe not necessarily the same background, but that’s me. I’m not alone. I can do it, too.'”
Headed into the show’s fifth and final season, which begins Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CW/Ch. 30, Rodriguez feels like “Jane” has been more about empowerment than she ever imagined — both for Hispanics and for women of all ethnicities. She said she gradually realized she “needed to shift my energy and learn about the spaces in which I could really create change — the kind of change that, I think, does make a young child feel capable and worthy and valued.”
Rodriguez is both an actor and a producer on the show, and she’s directed several episodes. She and the show’s executive producer, Jennie Snyder Urman, have worked to create opportunities for women behind the scenes.
“The majority of our directors are female, and so I see a significant change and shift,” Rodriguez said.
Snyder Urman said she didn’t understand “how much representation matters ... until I started this show. … You want to create a space where people feel valued.”
That’s a lot of philosophizing about a funny show that began when Jane — who was a virgin — was accidentally impregnated during a visit to her gynecologist. It has spun through all sorts of telenovela gyrations and featured a love triangle that divided viewers into Team Michael (Bret Dier) and Team Rafael (Justin Baldoni).
That seemed to have been resolved when Michael died in the middle of Season 3, but then he appeared to resurface — very much alive — in the Season 4 finale cliffhanger, which will be resolved on Wednesday.
(No spoilers here, but the cliffhanger will indeed be quickly resolved.)
“I knew it was a trope that we were going to save up till the end,” Snyder Urman said.
“Jane the Virgin” has been plenty funny, but there’s been heartfelt drama, too. Much of that centered on Jane; her mother, Xiomara (Andrea Navedo); and her grandmother, Alba (Ivonne Coll) — relationships Snyder Urman called “the heart of the show.”
And that’s been balanced out against the murder mysteries, the crime conspiracies, the kidnappings, the romances and, yes, the sudden return of Michael from the dead.
For all the craziness in “Jane the Virgin” — it is a telenovela, after all — it’s always been aspirational. Jane has worked hard to be both a good mother and a successful author. And the character and the woman who plays her are both determined to make the world a better place.
“I wanted it to be a story that was going to liberate young girls and say, ‘Wow, there we are, too,’” Rodriguez said. “And we’re the doctors, and we’re the teachers, and we’re the writers, and we’re the lawyers, and I can do that too. And I don’t have to be a perfect size zero. I can be a perfect size me.’”